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Jon Pointing: Act Natural review

| Comedy, Theatre | 17/11/2017


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Jon Pointing’s debut solo show is an excruciating masterpiece of character comedy.

If you ever see better character comedy than Jon Pointing‘s Act Natural, you’ve struck gold.  Because Pointing’s debut, in which he plays hilariously flawed acting coach Cayden Hunter, is a delicately crafted and wonderfully acted masterpiece.

The conceit is that audience members are attending Hunter’s acting workshop, a set-up nimbly explained as he enters and pretends not to want attention while he readies himself for the session.  Of course, Hunter wants the opposite, made clear when he slowly changes his top onstage, breathing in and tensing his muscles.  From that moment, the stage is set for a perfect demonstration of vulnerable self-importance, a traditional and deep well for character comedy.

The self-importance comes first, with Hunter describing himself as “more of a shaman than an acting coach”, professing a desire to inspire while really using his platform to show-off.  It’s there in his unsubtle attempts to impress attractive audience members (“I’m an actor.  I’m a lover.  And a feminist.  Did I see you on the Women’s March, Jenny?”).  It’s there in his excessive eye-contact and exaggerated ease as a presenter.  And it’s there in his ludicrously inflated way of explaining what he does.

Vulnerability soon follows as it becomes clear that Hunter’s self-regard outstrips his talent, with the pleasing irony that the acting coach has no idea how he portrays himself to the world.  He displays well-observed traits that make conceited actors seem so ridiculous to the rest of us: discomforting attempts at physical theatre, mispronounced phrases and enthusiastic, weak regional accepts.  Yet the comedy works equally for those unfamiliar with the acting world, because Cayden Hunter – cut from the same cloth as Alan Partridge and David Brent – is everywhere.  He’s every arrogant person you’ve met at work or on a night out.  He should be dislikable but, by drip-feeding his flaws, Pointing skilfully makes you feel uncomfortable for him, not antagonistic towards him.

As Pointing discussed in our preview, he hails from an acting background, evident in a powerful stage presence and energy.  But his ability to eke humour out of almost every action belies his comedic inexperience.  Whether ‘unintentionally’ spilling water down his shirt to catch a lady’s eye, or resorting to confused grins and frowns in the face of unexpected laughter – each movement tells a story and provokes mirth.

The show is immaculately constructed and almost impossible to fault, increasingly revealing the sources of Hunter’s vulnerability.  By the end, you see a broken man onstage.  And yet, through Pointing’s great gifts, all you hear is hysterical laughter.

Jon Pointing performed ‘Act Natural’ at the Edinburgh Fringe during August at Pleasance Courtyard.  For details of future London shows, see Cayden Hunter’s website or follow him on Twitter @CaydenHunter69.  Additionally, follow Jon on Twitter @JonPointing for details of his upcoming projects.  The image used above is © Rosie Collins.

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